5 thoughts on “People’s Budget: Conceptual Thoughts”

  1. Transportation:
    As a Fitchburg resident, we get free busing through 12th grade, whereas, people in Madison pay for busing starting in 6th grade.
    Is there any figures on how many kids who are on the line, still get special ed services, yet the district doesn’t get any fed money.
    Does summer school balance out?
    Cost of TAG?
    Leopold has 2 administrators, yet I believe every other elementary has only 1.
    What additional cost is involved with having SAGE programming?
    Pie chart that includes teachers benefits (health insurance, pensions, etc) towards the total cost of teachers or total budget costs.
    I am not sure how to phrase it, but the cost (%) of school support, at the elementary, middle school, high school. (TAG, Special Ed, Reading specialists, ELL (formerly ESL) costs both teachers, BRS, and reprinting forms in Spanish, Hmong, Albanian etc. Additional costs if any, for ordering spanish books/textbooks. If we order 100 textbooks in English and 25 in Spanish (specially in the same book), would this have additional costs than ordering 125 in English for example.
    Transportation at the middle school/high school.

  2. What’s the purpose of this exercise? What do you want to see? How will the information be used? Do you want to make year-to-year comparisons? School-to-school comparisons? The answers to these questions will somewhat dictate the figures you might want.

  3. My experience with the budget so far is that the information is prepared in a way that makes sense for the particular preparer. During the budget process, for example, the budget information is provided to us on a department by department basis, because that is how administration puts their budget together. Each department puts their budget and cuts together (i.e., Roger does his department, Sue A. does her department, etc.). This is ok for some budgeting purposes because the person who will be responsible for making sure we stick to the budget is the one putting the numbers together.
    However, I don’t think that this department by department approach really makes sense to the public from a practical standpoint. For example, if one asks how much is spent on transportation, the administration has to add together numbers from 4 or 5 different departments.
    So, I want to put something together for the public that would be more reflective of how they would expect to look at the budget. This would be an after-the-fact document, i.e. it would reflect the budget we already adopted. Right now I am not anticipating using it during the budget process.
    I would also like the document, along with any other explanations to be able to fit on a 11 x 17 piece of paper, folded in half. Which would give us no more than 4 pages, front & back.
    The document would be used to answer the general public’s basic questions in a format that makes sense, and be able to be used for year-to-year comparison. It would not be able to answer detailed budget questions.
    At this time I am not thinking about a school by school comparison, but I have looked at Milwaukee’s information and am intrigued by that.

  4. Lawrie,
    I think that you might find that the administration-produced budget documents include much of what you’re suggesting. Take a look at pages 15 and 16 in the document called Financial Summaries: http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/budget/mmsd/0607/Financial_Summaries.pdf
    While a simple pamphlet would be helpful for the general public, I hope that you’ll also work on modifying the documents the administration prepares for the board. As I suggested on this blog on August 19, 2005:
    “The MMSD needs a budget process that tells the board and administration, as well as the public, three things about spending on important programs and budget areas. In fact, we all need to know:
    1) How much was budgeted last year.
    2) How much was spent last year.
    3) How much is budgeted for this year.
    Until the budget includes these pieces of information, no one knows how taxpayer money is being spent.”
    I wrote a similar sentiment on September 21:
    “I have been trying for weeks to get a handle on how much the MMSD spends on various programs. As I’ve exchanged e-mails with Roger Price and Superintendent Rainwater, it has become clear that the MMSD cannot (or will not) provide figures on how much was budgeted for any particular program in the previous year, how much was spent in the previous year, and how much was budgeted for the current year.”
    Barb Schrank reinforced the idea in a post on October 12:
    “In the chart of accounts why aren’t there, or are there, “tags” (my word) that enable financial information to be organized in a way that if either a board member or the public wants to know what is being spent on library services, reading recovery, math instruction, other projects, this information can be provided?”

  5. Lawrie – this process is a total waste of time if the Board doesn’t listen to the people who are trying to tell you something about the budget process and the district’s administration. If you want to know how to accurately fix the problem, you have to look at the whole picture. Not to see the entire picture as it really is, will NEVER fix the problem. Now you want to give the superintendent the power to promote staff from within, what good are the unions? What good are audits if they are fixed, or investigations if the outcomes are played down as not being serious when in reality, the investigation showed a serious mishandling of funds or the process of the contract awards? You can ask all the questions you want of the public, but until you start to SERIOUSLY look (and hear) what your employees (who are right there to see what’s going on in the district) are trying to tell you, you will never be successful in solving the real problem, which in turn will never allow the public to trust the board like it should for referendums, etc.

Comments are closed.